How do serial killer suspects elude police?
June 24, 1999
From Correspondent Richard Roth
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A network of interstate roads and railways, government delays and police turf battles may be factors in why suspected serial killer Rafael Resendez-Ramirez remains at large despite a nationwide manhunt.
Nomadic killers like Glenn Edward Rodgers, who was convicted for a second murder just this week, move away from their crime scenes as quickly as possible, say criminologists. The perpetrators are likely to be hundreds of miles away before the bodies are found.
Police say Resendez-Ramirez gets away primarily by rail.
"He seems to be a throwback to some former time," said Harold Schechter, a professor and serial killer historian. "So somehow there's this notion of some kind of demonic hobo who's riding around the country killing people."
One former FBI serial killer investigator says that Resendez-Ramirez is not leaving "mouse trails" behind him, such as credit cards receipts, phone records or car reservations.
On the move, he avoids detection, but he has left fingerprints and other evidence.
"Ramirez is a transient type," said Fresno State University criminologist Eric Hickey. "He is high profile because he leaves evidence behind. He doesn't seem to try and hide his killings."
Poor communication between different state police agencies make it easier for mobile serial killers to slip away. And some convicted serial killers have said they weren't afraid of local police task forces.
"I knew all I had to do was throw my stuff in a car and move to Lakeland or Miami or Daytona or out of state and they'd never track me down," serial killer Bobby Joe Long said in 1992. "You know there's no way."
More than a decade ago, after Ted Bundy's cross country rampage, the FBI created VICAP -- the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program -- a nationwide collection center for information to help authorities connect the dots between various investigations. But even VICAP's managers concede that this 15-year-old program has "muddled through" and is only now beginning to receive proper funding and staffing.
An even bigger problem is that VICAP does not require police to send their crime scene reports to the FBI.
"We're still seeing agencies not cooperating and that really slows down the process," said Hickey. "If you've got bodies showing up in a county that's not reporting it, then it's hard to make the linkage."
Canada liked the idea of VICAP so much, the nation started its own "VICLASS" program, which requires Canadian police to cooperate. U.S. criminologists say that program is now working better than the one in the United States.
Experts say Resendez-Ramirez is leaving so many clues and acting so out of control that it's likely computerized information will not stop him, but rather he'll make a mistake or have a surprise confrontation with police.
Authorities: Suspected serial killer intelligent, dangerous
Federal Bureau of Investigation
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